More than ever, the need for a global anti-drugs summit

More than ever, perhaps the time has now come for President Rodrigo Duterte to initiate and expedite the convening of a “Global Anti-Drugs Summit” in Manila to help address the narcotics crisis in the country which is also a raging global problem. This way, we could let the Filipino people fully understand that the drug crisis at home is not just a domestic problem but indeed a deadly worldwide scourge.

Parents and their families, universities, civil societies, and media all over the world would heartily welcome and support such a global gathering and agree with governments and concerned public agencies in mobilizing to defeat the deadly narcotics syndicates operating in most cities of the world.

Their members and agents, at home and overseas, must be pursued and punished severely but the less guilty in their midst must also be accorded the benefit of rehabilitation.

We were invited to a dinner last week organized by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairperson Andrea Domingo, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Chairman Gen. Dionisio Santiago, Malacañan Undersecretary Dale Cabrera, Columnist and PAGCOR Director Chit Pedrosa and other officials of related agencies to consider our proposal for a Global Summit, and who unanimously agreed that the time for such a meeting is now urgent, and that they would urge the President to give the go-signal for an Inter-Agency Team to plan and set the date for the Summit in Manila to address the Philippine problem and work as well with anti-drug leaders and organizations in the global community.

The drug crisis in Metro Manila and various parts of the country has triggered an outcry in civil society and the religious community, with widespread coverage in multi-media and accusations of occasional police abuse aired at home and abroad, inspite of President Duterte’s genuine anti-drugs crusade.

But his determined and bona fide efforts backed by national police are at times unfortunately undermined by occasional reports of extra-judicial killings by a few but apparently unpunished policemen or by unidentified killers.

On another note, at our next meeting with the Inter-Agency Group led by Andrea Domingo, we hope to inform her that we plan to invite the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), based in Seoul, with its more than 300 ruling, opposition and independent member political parties, and the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), based in New York, representing international parliamentarians to perhaps extend their support to the Philippine initiative once it is launched. The IAPP is composed of many current and former members of parliament, from some 100 national legislative bodies in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas and Australia. We are fortunate to be Chairman of ICAPP and Co-Chairman of IAPP, based in Washington, D.C., the latter, with former U.S. congressional leader Dan Burton as Co-Chairman.

The Universal Peace Federation (UPF), based in New York City, under the leadership of its founder Madame Hak Ja Han Moon and its American President Thomas Walsh, with UPF’s more than 100 branches worldwide, and its U.S. affiliate, Washington Times, might also be interested to join and support a genuine worldwide anti-narcotics crusade, once organized and launched. UPF has more than 30,000 members in the Philippines under its President Julius Malicdem.

In our earlier column, we recalled that we met in Mexico City a few years ago with Mexico’s then newly elected President Enrique Peña Nieto in our capacity then as Election Observers in the presidential elections there, together with our ICAPP Secretary General Korean Chung Eui-yong, with our Latin-American friend, Gustavo Carvajal Moreno, former Mexican Speaker of Parliament, who unfortunately recently passed away. The Mexican President-elect expressed interest then in a global summit either in Manila or Mexico City, because of the continuing flow even today of illegal drugs to the U.S. market, through his country.

Indeed, at that time many realized that efforts to make trafficking more difficult in one locality—one region—or even one continent—simply shift trafficking to another venue. We were informed that the escalation of counter-narcotic campaigns in Mexico and Central America had been driving Latin-American traffickers to use West Africa to smuggle cocaine into Europe.

In recent years, it was reported that the U.S. was already training elite counter-narcotics police in Ghana, while planning similar units in Kenya and Nigeria.

We pointed out that carrying out police measures was not enough. We noted that in the emerging nations, weak states themselves had to be strengthened, and social institutions built up, to prevent trafficking groups from establishing themselves—and turning transit countries into consumer countries.

We said: “Stand-alone national programs can no longer suffice. The global war on narcotic drugs as in the Philippines—cocaine, heroin and chemical amphetamines—now requires group intelligence and concerted action that only a supranational body focused on resolving the problem can supply.”

We declared then as we declare today: “The war against narcotics, with its powerful private armies, is not a singular problem of Manila. Indeed, it is an inter-continental problem; it is a global problem.” Thus, our plea for a Global Summit in Manila.
Indeed in Asia, we have serious problems with the large growing of poppies and opium by warlords in Afghanistan (perhaps the biggest grower); in the Golden Triangle along the banks of the Mekong River, in Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar, and in the various transhipment points of various countries.

And some of the populous migrant workers of Asia including a few Filipinos are being corrupted to serve as “drug mules”, sometimes condemned to the death penalty or serving long sentences in prison when caught, as witnessed our unfortunate countrywoman presently languishing in Indonesian prison. As in the Caribbean in the 1980’s, poor, small, vulnerable countries, officials and impoverished citizens have succumbed to and been victimized by dirty money.

At our dinner meeting, we noted that already for a start, while still in the planning stage, Chairperson Domingo and Gen. Santiago and their staff already identified at least sixty (60) global leaders, active in international efforts against narcotics, who might be invited to journey to Manila for the conference, once called.

It is our hope indeed that governments and civil society organizations all over the world would attend the Manila conference once approved and announced, and extend support to the Philippine Government. There will be some critics of the conference because of some of the extra-judicial killings here but we believe overall the conference will be a big-plus for President Duterte and for the Filipino people.

Hon. Former Speaker of the House Jose de Venecia Jr.
Hon. Former Speaker of the House Jose de Venecia Jr.

Hon. Jose de Venecia, Jr. served as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998 and from 2001 to 2008, and is Founding Chairman, International Conference of Asian Political Parties. During his distinguished career, Hon. De Venecia was instrumental in successfully securing a peace agreement with the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front in southern Philippines and in forging a ceasefire and a peace pact with the rebellious Armed Forces group, RAM-YOU. He also revived the imperiled and long-stalled peace process with the communist National Democratic Front-New People’s Army, and progressed peace talks with the residual fundamentalist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao. Hon. DeVenecia is a member of GPF’s Global Leadership Council.

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